Do you feel its time to skill up your skydiving level and start learning how to back fly? Anyone who is confident enough that they have grasped the concept of belly flying, should take this path. Especially if your goal is to free fly. In skydiving or wind tunnel flying, this is a natural progression. To be honest with you, back flying is a fun position to tackle. However, it can be a challenging position and take some time to learn – both in skydiving and the wind tunnel.
“A solid back fly can take your free flying to the next level, and we hope you are stoked to learn!” Cori Sirois, Windoor Tunnel Instructor and Skydiver
Why is back fly important?
We all see the sky and tunnel ninjas and want to fly just like them. Guess what? They are masters at back flying. Let me broaden your thoughts here. Back flying is not only holding that fun box position. It opens doors to flying your entire body, under control, through complete 360 movements and transitions. Therefore, the ability to freely fly your body through different axes.
Back flying is your first introduction into more advanced flying. Specifically, having a strong, controlled back fly position is essential for safely moving onto more badass free flying – like sit flying and head down. Back flying is a fundamental requirement when flying these high speed positions, such as sit fly and head down. You will learn that back flying has a much faster, and broader range of fall rate then belly flying. For this reason, if you lose control during a jump or tunnel flight, you are able to “cork” or “flip out” of these high speed positions, using your back fly skills. This is the ability to fly in a safe manner, as to not endanger yourself or the people you are flying with.
Where should I learn to back fly?
As with many topics in skydiving and tunnel flying, people are going to have a difference of opinion. However, it is my humble opinion that is is more economical to learn back fly in the wind tunnel. You will accelerate your learning in the wind tunnel due to the fact that you will have continuous and uninterrupted learning. We also have an article about why people should try indoor skydiving and I’m sure that can help to illustrate the importance of the wind tunnel nowadays.
To learn back fly in skydiving, it can have more interruptions. And therefore, overall be less economical. What I mean by this is, in skydiving, as we know, we need to maintain altitude awareness. Back flying is a faster fall rate, and so this may be surprising at how quick you can lose altitude, compared to your belly flying. Furthermore, while skydiving we also have canopy deployment to consider. Be aware that safely transitioning from back flying onto your belly, into a stable deployment position, while maintaining proper altitude awareness, will take time and altitude!
You will also need to consider freefall traffic control. Your drift while learning back flying can be extreme. And so, if you choose to learn back fly in the sky, please remember this and fly with a coach!
In conclusion, when we break this all down, perhaps a lot of your jump will be sharing focus with other things, rather than learning the position itself.
Wind tunnel considerations
Learning to back fly in the wind tunnel can offer a more relaxed and focused environment, comparative to the aforementioned points of learning in the sky.
Obviously you will be flying with a wind tunnel coach. As well, flying more or less with uninterrupted time. It is great to be able to exit the tunnel after your turn, watch the videos and dissect your position with the coach. After that, you hop right back in and try again on your next rotation. There is no canopy ride, landing, packing and then plane ride until you get to try again. Just wait for your next rotation and get back in the tunnel to fly!
Personally what I liked about learning to back fly in the tunnel, was all the visual references. I can not count how many times I claimed to be “looking at the horizon” while learning things in the sky, and I really had no idea where I was looking. Hey, I was new and learning, don’t judge me! In the tunnel, it was much easier for me to pick visual references. For example, tunnel lights, stickers on the tunnel walls, or even some colourful pillows on the couches outside the tunnel.
Range of motions for back flying
In order to fully master your back flying skills there is a variety of motions you will need to learn and practise to become a proficient back flyer.
- Neutral/stable back fly position
- In place controlled turns left and right
- Forwards and backwards movement on heading
- Controlling flying up and down
- Side sliding motions on heading
- Belly to back half barrel roll and back to belly half barrel roll
- Belly to belly barrel roll
- Back to back barrel roll
- Over the feet belly to back transition
- Over the feet back to belly transition
This is just a general and basic list of the skills you will need to become a proficient and comfortable back flyer. Your coach will know what progression is best for you and your flying level. As well, they will add in flying drills for you and additional motions of flight depending on your level.
Relax, you will get it!
Back flying can be an incredibly frustrating skill for some of us to learn. It is going to take you some time to become comfortable and relaxed in this position and orientation. For sure you will spend some time being uncontrolled. Do not worry! All of us flyers and coaches can sympathize with this, as we have all been in the position of learning to back fly. When I started learning to back fly at iFLY Utah, I had so many bruises on my back from bouncing off the tunnel net!
Talk to your coach and practise the position out of the wind and on the ground. This can help your mind connect with position your body needs to be in. It will take some time to make the connection in the wind, but you will get the technique in no time with practice and a good attitude!
What is next
After learning how to back fly, what is the next step? Well now that you have opened the door to more advanced and high speed flying, your coach will start to teach you how to transition into a sit fly position. And of course how to utilize your back fly skills in “bailing out” of an unstable sit fly. As well, you can remain at lower speeds! You can start learning how to back carve, or what you will soon know as head down inface carving. For me this is one of my favorite positions to fly, and it all starts with a solid and stable back fly!
And remember, utilize the many knowledgeable coaches that are in our sport. Learning in the wind tunnel you have no choice, you will not be allowed to learn alone. But please, if choosing to learn back fly in skydiving. Do coach jumps! Ask questions! Don’t be that person, who thinks they know it all. You could really endanger yourself and your peers! Stay save, and keep learning.
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